Air Gun Hits Paddle with Ping Pong Balls at Mach 1.2—and it’s as awesome to watch as it sounds

Engineers find fun way to experiment with old technology

Paddle hit by ping pong ball at Mach 1.2

Ping Pong’s fun to play, but it’s not a great game to watch. It’s all a bit, I don’t know, repetitive. But that’s what makes this video so great—it actually makes ping pong interesting. Here’s what went down.

Mark French, a mechanical engineering at Purdue University, along with graduate students Craig Zehrun and Jim Stratton got together and built a contraption called the “de Laval tube”. Basically, it’s a modern-day version of the de Laval nozzle, an hourglass tube used to accelerate a hot, pressurized gas to supersonic speeds. They put a ping pong ball in the tube in front of this gas and found that they could shoot the ball at speeds over 900 miles per hour, or Mach 1.2.

Diagram of de Laval tube

It’s enough to—as you can see in the picture above—put a hole through a ping pong paddle.

Ain’t science grand? Video of the gun in action below (about five minutes worth of explanation prior to the gun shooting – go to 5:50 to see it shoot: